Negotiating urban dynamics
One has become almost used to the still relatively fresh and still enthusiastically practised phenomenon of artists’ initiatives in Bangalore.
Considered against an old-fashioned, mediocre educational background and accompanied by scarce, sporadic institutional support, contemporary artists of different generations, of their own effort, have been consistently developing a multi-focal and open-ended environment of self-triggered learning that, while exploring a loose gamut of avant-garde methods, engages with actual life issues, materials and objects often veritably involving elements of raw reality which predominantly concern the immediacy of the urban space with its ever changing physical and human situations.
As much as the process and its circumstances generate creative stimuli especially for young artists and students, the fact that all this is happening without the participation of an audience except for one of other artists, may bring the danger of self-indulgency and obscurity besides revealing the gap between the largely conceptual premises of artists interacting with the reality of normal people in the city and that reality itself which either remains unaware or connects merely on the curiosity level.
Apprehensions included with the current societal disconnect, one has to admire the perseverance of the community in shaping the base for a hopefully more penetrating future.
Two recent events in particular revolved round the city in a state of constant transforming and migration.
The Bar1 salon with a couple of INLAKS scholars on a month-long residency (October 7 to 8) was as interesting in its subject-matter and its conceptual orientation characteristic to the place as it was, at least in a vast part, successful in evoking intense moods and elementary but subtle sensations.
Sujit Mallik conjured, observed, responded to and participated in a dynamic condition that paralleled and embodied the “performance” of life in the forming. Having re-arranged a hatching nest with grain and baskets for a hen with her eggs in a tiny room, then an expansive installation of an urban chicken coop with a rough effulgence of abstract, gestural murals and hangings that seemed to flow like wings, Mallik, in an apparently simple and unpretentious yet many-layered and involving manner, offered to the viewer a directness of recognising his own involved experience that, non-judgementally and acceptingly, looked at the city’s transitional status through its similarity to diverse organic growth and animal birthing.
The contribution of his co-exhibitor Neha Thakar emphasised, even anchored in the actions, mechanics and duration of processes which aimed at touching on and sensing the tenuous region between the aesthetic gesture of drawing and the behaviour of life in specific situations that again suggested broad trajectories. Her work, though mediating reality straight on, relied more on ideas, hence needed some explaining as to its intentions yet eventually yielded a beautiful and pervasive feeling.
Somewhat less convincing were the photographic sequences documenting Thakar’s interactive, or potentially interactive, ventures which resulted in a vast hopscotch of flower garlands on the floor of a dry Lalbagh lake and a chalk powder one done for schoolchildren.
The wall drawing in lines of old tape traces, areas of peeled plaster and coffee stains gently let one intuit the artist’s trying to map the unfamiliar place and tentative human movements.
Both the curator - D L Deepak and the four participants of the exhibition ‘Vortex, it’s not just art’ (1Shanthiroad Studio/Gallery, October 7 to 14) are advanced students of the CKP college, and their efforts, with their sincerity and some achievements as well as with their drawbacks, should be treated as an educational experience, all the more valuable in its kind that it is normally unavailable in the official curriculum.
One appreciated the topical idea to see the art aspirants hailing from different places but striving to collaborate while familiarising themselves and commenting on the new environment of Bangalore as reflecting nature of the transforming city.
The way the references to socio-political, gender and history or art history issues came through in the works, though, sometimes hovered from the illustrative to the obfuscated, while the frequently considerable skills needed tempering of stylisation and design-tendency.
The participants connected, if not obviously, in their preoccupation with mediating the city through the public telephone and feminine perspective (Balaji Marugonda), with the topography of natural yet restrictive gender roles (Tirupati Anvesh), with assimilating the indigenous by an empathic foreigner (Megumi Sakakida) and with the western-inspired but locally focused graffiti gesture of freedom (Ritwik Bothsa).
†The most mature here and effortless, Bothsa’s paintings lent their tone to the joint canvas. One could risk perhaps advising Deepak to simplify writing before the language is mastered which surely will happen.